Sniper Dominates MLK Weekend; Blackhat Bombs Ugly
By John Hamann
January 18, 2015
Warner Bros. employed a similar strategy with Gran Torino, using a platform model over four weekends before taking it out to 2,808 over the pre-MLK weekend before widening it further over the next two weekends. Like Gran Torino, Eastwood made a movie audiences seem to like more than critics, as Gran Torino earned an A Cinemascore and was 79% fresh. Sniper took it further, earning an A+ Cinemascore while being a similar 73% fresh. Audiences, regardless of red or blue state, seem to be rushing out to see – and enjoy – American Sniper.
Going wide following Oscar nominations also helped American Sniper, as it was able to turn its six somewhat unexpected nominations into gold. This was the piece that Gran Torino missed, as despite audiences loving it, the Academy did not. That film was shut out from any nominations despite being in the sweet spot on the Oscar calendar.
Lone Survivor, the last war picture to open big in January, also employed the American Sniper model, as it spent two weekends in limited release before going wide on MLK weekend. The weekend before it received two Oscar nominations, it moved from two screens to 2,875, and earned $37.8 million, which is now the fifth biggest January opener. It also earned an A+ Cinemascore and went on to earn $125 million at the domestic box office. That’s where the rub comes in for American Sniper. Lone Survivor was a breakout hit at home, but earned only $25 million overseas. Similarly, international box office for a film named American Sniper is up for debate, but it has already earned $16 million from overseas venues, and Eastwood's name has some pull for those audiences. At this point, the big question is whether American Sniper will reach $250 million domestic, and we'll monitor its overseas success as well.
The race for second spot was close between The Wedding Ringer and Paddington, as the January box office has seen some strong openers this year. The Wedding Ringer didn’t do Ride Along type business, but it did enough to succeed and keep the "Kevin Hart roll" going nicely. The Wedding Ringer earned $7 million on Friday night – combined with a few hundred thousand earned on Thursday night. We have to go back to Kevin Hart’s supporting role in Grudge Match to find a lower first Friday, as that one earned $7 million over its entire opening weekend in 2013. The Think Like a Man series, About Last Night, and Ride Along all opened bigger than The Wedding Ringer, but we still can consider this one a success, due to the $23 million production budget on the Screen Gems release.
Over the weekend proper, The Wedding Ringer pulled in an okay $21 million, but given the size of the American Sniper success and the fact that there were four films earning almost $15 million or more this weekend, we can gather that this one did more than okay. Ringer was given a wide release by Sony’s Screen Gems, putting it out to more than 3,000 venues. The Wedding Ringer was also R rated, so a direct comparison to the PG rated Ride Along, which debuted to $41.5 million, isn’t completely fair. Audiences liked it, as it earned an A- Cinemascore, but critics like this more than the 17% fresh Ride Along. The Wedding Ringer earned a 33% score.